Restriction of movement during environmental sanitation ‘unlawful’ – Court

Lagos (Photo credit: The Times UK)

A Federal High Court in Lagos has ruled that the restriction of movement during the monthly environmental sanitation exercise in the state is unlawful and a violation of the citizens’ right to liberty and freedom.

The case was brought against the state by a lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa.

The trial judge, Mohammed Idris, while delivering judgement on Monday, said the restriction on movement violated Sections 35 and 41 of the Constitution which guaranteed personal liberty and right to movement.

Mr. Mohammed voided the power of the state governments and its agents to arrest any citizen found moving between 7am and 10 am on the last Saturday of the month, when the exercise is observed.

In his contention before the court, Mr. Adegboruwa had argued that the restriction of movement was illegal and obnoxious. He said the exercise violated the provisions of Section 35 and 41 of the Constitution. He also argued that it violated Article XII of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The lawyer said he was compelled to institute the case after he was arrested by agents of the state on June 29, 2013 while on his way to appear on the Sunrise programme on Channels Television.

“The fact that an act has endured for years would not be a reason for the court not to strike it down,” Mr. Adegboruwa said. “I will pray my Lord to give a ruling before March 28, which is another last Saturday of the month and free myself and other Lagosians from this obnoxious practice.”

The counsel for the Lagos State Government, Jonathan Ogunsanya, had told the court to dismiss Mr Adegboruwa’s application for being an abuse of court process and for failure to disclose any material fact.

He also argued that the exercise was instituted in the interest of the public.

“It is in the interest of public health that the law has been made and it was duly made in accordance with the Constitution itself,” Mr. Ogunsanya said.

Another counter-affidavit deposed to by Bisayo Apata on behalf of the state government stated: “The issue of environmental sanitation is an age-long thing. In order to forestall a major derailment in public health, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health had made the regulation mandating all persons in Lagos State to stay at home and observe the Lagos State environmental sanitation exercise from 7am to 10am on the last Saturday of every month, as he is empowered by section 39 of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Law, 2002.”

Mr Apata also argued that the exercise was usually not observed on important public days such as during general Election Days, Christian and Muslim festive days, Joint Matriculation Examination days etc.

“Essential service officials, such as people in hospital ambulance carrying patients requiring emergency medical attention and fire service buses, are allowed to move freely to carry out their essential services,” he said.


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  • bestaxs

    Any law that contradicts the constitution of any country is void from the very moment it was made. Freedom to travel is an unconditional God given right.

    • Omo Akin

      Not so fast. Freedom of movement is not absolute. So restriction on election day is unlawful or a curfew lawfully imposed! The question is whether the restriction is reasonable or otherwise. It is also under the principle of public good, safety and health that a person can be restricted due to an illness like the ebola.

      • bestaxs

        Not absolute in a state of emergency. Is election or cleaning the
        environment a state of emergency? The cleanest countries don’t have
        environmental sanitation day.

  • Ade

    Bestaxs and Omo Akin you are both right. However the overriding factor is the public interest. Nigeria at the moment with due respect to Bestaxs opinion still needed a particular period for environmental sanitation. The developed society you are referring to had developed a strong and positive attitude to clean and hygienic environment. We should try to be objective and put any personal sentiment aside and respect the public interest on this particular case.

  • Dan maikoko

    Archaic and backward law. I have always known that it is a matter of time before our saviors from Lagos will act and save us from this obnoxious law like the new plate number. I hated the fact that a law will restrict my movement for no reason at all. Majority of the people do no cleaning on that day. Cleaning is a daily affair. Where the state is serious cleaners are paid well, streets are cleaned daily, public places as well. Toilets and dustbins and provided almost every where you go. Our country does non of the above but relish the infringement of peoples rights in the name of sanitation.

  • maureen

    expected to be the most contested in the nation’s history. As election day approaches, the world is given a revealing look at the challenges facing Africa’s largest country today.

    The electoral candidates are incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has been in power since 1999, and General Muhammadu Buhari of the newly formed All Progressive Congress (APC). Though the APC is a recent addition to the Nigerian political landscape, General Buhari is not.

    In 1983 Buhari seized power from a democratically elected government through a military coup. He held the presidential seat for 20 months and was eventually ousted by a coup himself in 1985. His time in power was marked by strict sanctions taken against those who opposed the law or his government, part of a campaign called the “war against indiscipline.” Armed with an idealized view of society, Buhari sought to educate Nigerian society by whip and police baton. Reports abound of people being beaten if they weren’t queuing orderly in bus stations or if they were late for work. Unfortunately, the memories of the Buhari regime have faded away, especially since 70% of Nigeria’s population is too young to remember his rule.

    For many Nigerians their role as voters lies in finding the lesser of two evils, between Buhari’s negative baggage and the deficiencies of the current president. Jonathan, who beat out Buhari for the presidency in 2011, has come under fire politically for his inability to quell the terrorist activities of Boko Haram or to properly deal with corruption in his own government. General Buhari’s campaign promises swift and effective solutions in both areas.

    But there are other factors to consider beyond the strengths and failings of the candidates themselves. On March 28th, a great intersection of economics, geography and religion will have occurred. Historically, few Nigerians vote outside of a predetermined socio-economical pattern. For example, in 2011’s contest, Buhari received 96.9% of votes from the north.

    Indeed, Nigeria is consistently stuck in a political game of tug-of-war between the majority Muslim north and the Christian, oil-rich south. The two regions, albeit equal in terms of population, have deep social divisions, with the north feeling more marginalized because of its general underdevelopment. These divisions, remnants of British colonial malpractice, have seen their grievances crystallized in two militant groups: Boko Haram in the north, and the rebels of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in the south.

    Both groups have a history of political involvement, with MEND in particular having blackmailed government after government with terrorist attacks on key oil infrastructure unless its demands for more political representation were met. Threats made by MEND have led to an uneasy alliance between the militants and the government. In exchange for “amnesty” and pensions for its fighters, along with the promotion of fellow southern politicians, the group suspended terrorist activities. That is, until this round of elections, when MEND publicly endorsed Buhari, threatening to resume their attacks in the event of a Jonathan win.

    On the other hand, Boko Haram has proven to be one of the most consistent threats to Nigerian peace, causing the Nigerian government to declare a state of emergency in three of its northernmost states in 2013. The jihadist group, whose name translates to “western education is forbidden,” is devoted to the creation of an Islamic state and has vowed to hinder the election process. And while General Buhari is outspoken in his intentions to stop Boko Haram, on this point the two agree. The Muslim presidential hopeful has previously called for total sharia law in all of Nigeria and has repeatedly said he will not recognize the elections if he feels cheated, statements which signaled alarm for some.

    But beyond concerns for what might happen if Buhari is elected, there are also concerns for what might happen if he isn’t. After his unsuccessful tussle with Jonathan in 2011, pro-Buhari supporters instigated a campaign of violence and terror targeting Jonathan’s ethnic group. While Buhari denies any involvement, a legal action has been filed against him before the International Criminal Court, calling for an investigation into claims he encouraged his supporters to riot if he lost.

    As the election approaches, Nigerians are faced with an ostensibly simple choice between Buhari and Jonathan. But it is also seems to be a choice that can be expressed along several fault lines, such as north versus south or Islam versus Christianity. And with the date of the vote being delayed in order to ensure an adequate security presence and to prevent riots like those in 2011, it seems impossible to separate Nigeria’s elections from its history. Hopefully this doesn’t mean that history will be repeated.

    • Dr.Dan

      You didn’t acknowledge the source.

  • Dr.Dan

    I schooled in Calabar which is arguably the cleanest Nigerian city yet there is nothing like 7-10am curfew for the sake sanitation. Sanitation is a daily routine gov’t clean the streets and drainage and dispose refuse and the citizens pay tax. I was surprised to see that this obnoxious practice of “curfew environmental sanitation” is extant in south west Nigeria. I see people dig their gutters and dump the dirt on the road side only for it to be washed back by rain and they repeat the same the following month in the name of environmental sanitation. state law enforcement officer go about arresting and extorting people all in the name of sanitation.

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